CATCHING ON QUICK
Baseball America|August 2021
Emerging young catchers Gabriel Moreno and Francisco Alvarez were gaining helium in prospect circles for their immense offensive upside
JOSH NORRIS

Prospect analysis often requires making predictions about an unpredictable game and its unpredictable players. That sense of the unknown is one reason why break-out prospects intrigue us so much.

Every year, a player who entered the season as a relative unknown ends up dominating as soon as the first pitch is thrown on Opening Day.

The Nationals’ Juan Soto was that way in 2018, when he returned from a series of injuries in the prior season to rip through Low-A, High-A and Double-A in just 39 games on the way to big league stardom.

This year, Blue Jays catcher Gabriel Moreno stands as one of the biggest breakouts in baseball. Through 32 games at Double-A, he hit .373/.441/.651 with eight home runs. He drew 14 walks against 22 strikeouts.

But to those who got to watch the 21-year-old Venezuelan in 2020, this isn’t an opening act. It’s an encore performance.

Blue Jays minor league hitting coordinator Hunter Mense puts it this way: “I talked to some reporters before the season and their first question was: ‘Is there anybody we’re missing or anybody that might be a little bit too low?’ and my answer was always emphatically Gabriel Moreno.

“What everybody missed out on last year was just seeing some of the strides that guys made and, for him, improving some of the strength that he had.

“He was already one of my favorites in the organization because of what he can do offensively, but then you fast-forward a year and—and nobody got to see him—and it was like, ‘Yeah he’s the absolute real deal.’ ”

Moreno entered the season ranked as Toronto’s No. 8 prospect. Internally, the Blue Jays knew his stock was about to explode because of the work he’d done behind the scenes at the team’s alternate training site.

Now, Moreno has quickly joined the Mets’ Francisco Alvarez and the Orioles’ Adley Rutschman in the conversation for the game’s best young catching prospect.

“He’s already pretty much a plus defender,” one scout said. “The receiving is excellent. The blocking’s really good. He can throw. The release is good. Everything you want to see, he already does, and he’s 21.

“He does it all. To be honest, I do not think I saw him make a single mistake. I saw at least four games, maybe five, of him catching and I don’t think I saw any mistakes.”

If standout defense were the bulk of Moreno’s tools, he would still be a quality candidate for a long big league career, but his work behind the plate is only half of his talent. He can really hit, too.

Moreno began the 2021 season as the fifth-youngest player in the Double-A Northeast League, yet he was just the third-youngest on his own team, behind right-handers Simeon Woods Richardson and Elvis Luciano. Moreno had been an offensive menace since Day One.

Only a late-June thumb fracture that resulted from a hit by pitch could slow Moreno. For now.

“His approach is aggressive, but it’s good aggression,” the scout said. “It’s swinging at balls that he should be swinging at, which is really the mark of a good hitter . . . No matter if the rest of his body gets a little bit fooled, his hands are always back. He uses the whole field.

“He just smoked balls back up the middle and is totally content to do that. Obviously in today’s game, number one, those guys are rarer. Number two, they’re extremely valuable because no one does that.”

When he got to Low-A in 2019, Moreno made an immediate impact, swatting a home run in his first game with Lansing. He finished his stint at the level with impressive numbers, but the Blue Jays wanted to see more oomph behind the balls he put in play.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM BASEBALL AMERICAView All

MAKING AN IMPRESSION

Four draft classes that caught our attention for their upside potential

5 mins read
Baseball America
August 2021

RARE AIR

Whether hitting or pitching, Jackson Jobe does things on the field that few have seen

5 mins read
Baseball America
August 2021

KIRBY'S DREAM WORLD

George Kirby has as much helium as any prospect in baseball. Along with Emerson Hancock, he headlines a wave of power pitchers making their way to Seattle.

9 mins read
Baseball America
August 2021

UP TO SPEED?

Quality of play in the full-season minor leagues had suffered from the lost 2020 season

6 mins read
Baseball America
August 2021

THE FUTURE IS NOW

Baseball’s golden age of young talent takes center stage at the All-Star Game

5 mins read
Baseball America
August 2021

HISTORIC FINISH

Vanderbilt’s dynamic duo of Kumar Rocker and Jack Leiter are the first teammates to win our College Player and Freshman of the Year awards in the same season

5 mins read
Baseball America
August 2021

FINAL PIECE OF THE PUZZLE

Chris Lemonis earned a reputation as a recruiter, but after winning a national title at Mississippi State, he will be remembered as a champion

6 mins read
Baseball America
August 2021

CREATING HIS OWN STORY

The Brewers’ Hedbert Perez may be the son of a Venezuelan baseball icon, but the 18-year-old outfielder is forging his own identity

6 mins read
Baseball America
August 2021

COMING TO FRUITION

Brooks Lee blossoms into a top draft prospect under his father’s tutelage at Cal Poly

6 mins read
Baseball America
August 2021

CATCHING ON QUICK

Emerging young catchers Gabriel Moreno and Francisco Alvarez were gaining helium in prospect circles for their immense offensive upside

10 mins read
Baseball America
August 2021
RELATED STORIES

Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It

Tuesday, Oct. 5, 9/8c, PBS (check local listings at pbs.org)

1 min read
TV Guide Magazine
September 27 - October 27, 2021

BOBBY BO and the BRAIN TRUST

Thanks to a deal with the old owners, the former outfielder still gets a $1 million check every summer. The arrangement helped the Mets get to the World Series. But a new book says no matter how effective the move was, July 1 will always be an ironic holiday for fans. It’ll always be Bobby Bonilla Day

10+ mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
March 22, 2021

Vocal Distancing

The maestros of classical music now depend on the camera lens to translate their magic.

3 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
October 26, 2020

J.LO TRIES TO SCORE METS AS A-ROD WEDDING GIFT!

HE DREAMS OF OWNING FAVE BOYHOOD TEAM

1 min read
National Enquirer
May 11, 2020

The Mets and Cubs Are Favorites. Could This Possibly Be Real?

It's opening day and the Mets and Cubs are league favorites, hard as that is to believe.

6 mins read
New York magazine
April 4–17, 2016

Alvarez becomes Ist undisputed super-middleweight champion

Mexican beats Plant to win IBF title and join elite list of boxers with four-belt world champion status

3 mins read
Hindustan Times Delhi
November 08, 2021

Isko: Rains, floods won't stop vaccination

Manila Mayor Isko Moreno has asked the public for patience as he thanked them for lining up to get vaccinated despite the heavy rains and floods caused by the enhanced southwest monsoon in several parts of the city.

1 min read
The Philippine Star
July 23, 2021

STEVE CRADOCK

The Ocean Colour Scene man reflects on the mystique of flat-wound strings and recounts a lucky strike with some JCM800s

5 mins read
Guitarist
June 2021

BILLY NO MATES

Saunders claims he never gets credit

2 mins read
Daily Record
May 08, 2021

Tondo hospital gets Japanese CT scan

Manila Mayor Isko Moreno unveiled yesterday a modern CT scan machine at the Gat Andres Bonifacio Memorial Medical Center (GABMMC) in Tondo.

1 min read
The Philippine Star
April 15, 2021